Frontline Worker Pay Legislation Passes MN House; Call on Senate to Stop Stalling

Last night the Minnesota House passed a significant legislative package to provide $1,500 checks to 667,000 frontline workers on a vote of 71-61 with all DFL’ers supporting the bill and Republican lawmakers opposing the bill (see picture of the roll call vote below). This bill represents the final legislative package that has been two years in the making and has been one of AFSCME Council 5's highest priorities. We have been working closely in with countless other labor unions, community organizations, and legislative champions like Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Rep. Cedrick Frazier, Sen. Erin Murphy, Sen. Melisa Lopez Franzen, Speaker Melissa Hortman, Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, Rep. Liz Olson and many others as we work collaboratively to get this legislation signed into law.

However, the Minnesota Senate majority has refused to listen to this package in committee and hasn't even drafted legislation to compensate our frontline heroes for the often dangerous work they did and continue to do during the pandemic. 

It is long past time for the Legislature to ensure frontline workers. Here is an inclusive list of what frontline workers would receive $1,500 hero pay checks under Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota House's plan: 1) long-term care and home care; 2) health care; 3) emergency responders; 4) public health, social service, and regulatory service; 5) courts and corrections; 6) child care; 7) public schools, including charter schools, state schools, and higher education; 8) food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale, and delivery; 9) retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution, and delivery; 10) temporary shelters and hotels; 11) building services, including maintenance, janitorial, and security; 12) public transit; 13) ground and air transportation services; 14) manufacturing; and 15) vocational rehabilitation.

In order to receive a check under this plan, workers must meet the following individual eligibility requirements:

  • was employed in one of the frontline sectors in MN for at least 120 hours from 3/15/20 to 6/30/21
  • was not able to work remotely due to the nature of their work, and worked in close proximity to other individuals (not in the same household);
  • meet income restrictions. For workers providing direct care to COVID patients, max income is $350,000 (joint filers) and $175,000 (single). For all other workers, the limits are $185,000 (joint) and $85,000 (single); and
  • did not collect more than 20 weeks of unemployment benefits from 3/15/20 to 6/30/21.

Now this package has been sent to the Senate where we call for swift action and for them to stop delaying its passage.

At the end of the 2021 legislative session, a $250 million appropriation was made and a working group created with the goal of creating a plan to distribute funds to frontline workers. From the beginning, Minnesota House members on the working group fought to include as many frontline workers as possible, but the Senate continued to hold firm to their proposal that would severely limit the number of frontline workers they deemed "worthy" of receiving this hazard pay.

As a result of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group failing to come to an agreement and in recognition of the bravery and integrity of our state's frontline workers, Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota House leaders expanded their propsal include even more workers with larger checks and in recognition of our state budget surplus, to $1 billion, while the Senate majority hasn't introduced a single piece of legislation to take up this hero pay package nor held a single hearing. They initially offered a proposal that would leave more than 500,000 frontline workers getting $0 -a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of workers who Make Minnesota Happen. It is clear who is on the side of working people and frontline workers and who is not. 

Dozens of members of AFSCME Council 5 provided testimony both in the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group and throughout this bill's six committee stops through the Minnesota House and stand ready to provide testimony in the event the Minnesota Senate majority 

Quotes from our champions:

“This bill has been two hard years in the making,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, author of the bill. “It has passed through six committees in less than a month, had many dedicated frontline workers drop everything to testify in support, and we’ve answered hundreds of questions from our colleagues. Now it’s passed off of the House floor. Our workers in Minnesota need to see action from Senate leaders on this bill now. We need to show that our Minnesota legislature puts people over profits.”

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota’s frontline workers have put their health and safety on the line to keep the economy going, treat COVID patients, provide child care, teach our children, respond to emergencies, ensure we all have food, and so much more,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “These workers have more than earned these bonuses, and it’s long past time we get this done.” 

Link to press release: